Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Badly Missing the Point

Another article is up about the Howl Protest, by Rachel Aziz, at

I have to say, it's disappointing to see our Protest so badly misunderstood-- or at least misconstrued.

What was the theme of our actions? "FREE the Beats!" We WANT the poem circulated-- we're protesting the poem being locked under glass in academia away from the world, or held hostage for a price of fifteen dollars. We were shouting it outside, for free, to the world.

(Patrick King wrote on this at the outset of our noise-making. I have two poems on this blog which addressed the matter, one called "Free the Beats!" and another posted March 1st. Rachel, I wish you would've read and discussed THEM.)

I realize our entire campaign involves a sea-change in thinking. Someone like Lopate is incapable of this. (Does he really believe isolating art in a museum away from society is good for it-- that it's somehow populist!!! This guy is incredibly clueless.)

Someone like Rachel Aziz shouldn't be beyond hope.

Question: is your Poetry Foundation reaching the general public?? I say no-- not enough. You have the opportunity to do so if you broaden your world.

Street poets reading at open mics-- or on streetcorners, or on sidewalks, as the ULA did April 17th, ARE getting the word out. (The literary establishment doesn't even want to! They're too busy constructing barriers to being a writer, to joining their exclusive club.)

Your establishment sits at $10,000 tables at well-guarded events like the National Book Awards. This crowd wants literature and poetry to go the way of other dead arts-- to be of, by, and for the rich.

Before I sign off I'd like to address Ann Douglas's statement about poets wanting attention. Well, if you must know, Ms. Douglas, I agree with this. It's why the Underground Literary Alliance was founded-- to get good underground writers some attention. Too many good ones have died unknown.

But what are you doing, Ms. Douglas, to get them attention? Isn't your entire world geared only toward celebrating conformists-- those writers who pay the bill and jump through the hoops?

Let's put aside once and for all this myth-- this lie-- that the academy made Allen Ginsberg. The Beats made it on their own-- through their own actions-- all the while receiving the academy's scorn. Not until they were a cultural phenomenon did academics-- people like you, Ms. Douglas, and you, Phillip Lopate-- belatedly and opportunistically jump on the Beat bandwagon, to try to boost their own cred. As we could see by your April 17th affair, you're still doing it.

The literary establishment gave Allen Ginsberg NOTHING that he didn't give himself. Yes, he benefitted financially, by allowing the academy to embrace him after he was already world-famous! And they eagerly did.

Stop distorting history, please! Thank you.

1 comment:

King said...

p.s. All-in-all it's not a bad piece. It lets people know we're out there-- though it obviously comes from within the bubble of established literature. All opinion is filtered through the viewpoint of the safe and approved.
A few points:
1.) ALL the excitement at that reading was provided by us. This more than anything proves our point. Without the ULA, that event would have been little more than a replication of a morgue.
2.) "shunning the attention of other writers"?? We've been accused of many things before, but never that!
3.) The sign which said "literature sucks" was carried by an ex-ULAer who was protesting our protest.
4.) In Rachel's essay there's no acknowledgement of the society we live in, with all its many diverse levels of high and low. Most ULAers are alienated for a reason. Doesn't she realize that many writers-- as did Kerouac, Cassady without doubt, Bob Kaufmann, live in the lower levels of society because that's the world from where they come.
As always, the only kind of writers, in their world, is THEIR kind of writer. Seldom any acknowledgement that the rest of us exist.
Well, you know what? We're going to make a lot more noise, so look out!